The Talent Scout.

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Last Saturday, my daughter and I were at the mall, picking up a birthday present for one of her friends. Lately, she has taken to dressing herself in strange, funky, layered outfits, and the one she had on on Saturday was particularly Punky Brewster-ish, with a purple skirt over jeans, red suede boots and an orange American Girl tank top over a white, long-sleeved, waffle-weave shirt. Oh, and she had me braid little braids into the front of her hair, so that they fell down by the sides of her face like tiny ropes, weighted down with seven sparkly barrette anchors on each side. She looked, shall we say…interesting.

 

Anyway, there we were, browsing through Gap Kids, when a woman with an unnaturally large smile made a beeline for me. Normally, I’m not all that friendly towards strangers, especially ones with unnaturally large smiles who are obviously targeting me to fill out a survey, or sign a petition, or come join them for a prayer service at their mega-church. I braced myself, but all the woman did was comment on how adorable my daughter is – so spunky! My guard down, I allowed the woman a smile. I am a mom, after all, and what mom doesn’t love hearing from perfect strangers that her kid is adorable, and spunky, no less? The woman asked if my daughter had picked out her outfit, and I sort of implied back to her that I, myself would not have paired an orange tank top with a purple skirt and red boots. At which point the woman reached into her purse and whipped out a business card. Foiled! I thought. I knew that smile was too big to belong to a normal person with no agenda.

 

But rather than ask me if I’d ever wondered how I could improve my life in six easy steps, the woman instead informed me that she was a children’s talent and modeling scout, and that my spunky little girl would look FANTASTIC on television. I glanced at my daughter – who has been staging shows since the minute she could talk; who has never met a mirror that she didn’t love; who can’t be around a camera without striking a Madonna pose; whose attitude about audiences is, the bigger the better; who is counting down the minutes until she’s old enough to audition for American Idol – and I could actually see her little ears perk up, just the way my dog’s do when she hears the refrigerator door open. The woman told me that we should come by her office on Monday night, because she was planning to introduce a group of kids to a well known talent agency that places clients in commercials, print ads, and even Disney shows.

 

Okay, so, I’m not going to lie. For a few seconds, Gap Kids all but disappeared, and I found myself on a movie set, watching my adorable, spunky kid as she quipped some adorable, spunky lines in front of a live, adoring audience. And then there I was, standing in a Disney store, surrounded by Harper tee-shirts and Harper lunch boxes and Harper pajamas, and of course, a Harper doll. But then I was pulled back to earth by my daughter, tugging on my sleeve, demanding to know who that lady was, and what did she mean I would be fantastic on television?

 

guccigirl08723
01.04.10

Let me say that you DEFINATELY did the right thing, not only for your child, but for your bank account!! I'm in the entertainment business and I can tell you right now that the lady who approached you, was interested in your money, not your child. Legitimate agents do not scout in malls, hotels, newspapers or anywhere else. Scouts take your money, and you never hear from them again. So good job!

supermomi
05.01.09

WOW, thanks for this article and all of the comments. As I child, I always wanted my mom to get me into that stuff (of course she didn't), so as a mom of two "adorable" kids, I've often thought about it. Of course, working full time had not allowed me the opportunity to do more than think about it. The one time that I did make it to the address on someone's business card, it was evident when we showed up that it was nothing more than a cattle call. Thanks for the perspective!! I'll keep my kids enjoying what they love, and we'll see where it goes from there.

elastamom
02.19.09

Risa, you never fail to crack me up. I think that same woman accosted us at Build-a-Bear. It was almost verbatim – my spunky six-year old had great energy, bla, bla, bla. But the best part was when she asked her if she’d like to be on TV, my daughter flat out said, “No!” It was a proud mommy moment.

bellyblossom
02.19.09

great article...informative! and i learn so much from reading other comments.

tvtrace
02.18.09

You did the right thing. Not an easy thing to do these days. Many moms (and dads) would kill to be stage parents. Pretty much sacrifice their young for a nearly impossible shot at show biz.

Tracy
http://themoxiereport.blogspot.com

kauihart
02.18.09

Great piece. I love your writing!

neuromum
02.18.09

Good for you! I liked your article. I don't think it would be fun to schlep around to auditions & photographers either. If she really likes to perform, sign her up for the local drama club. She'll probably get a lot more out of it.

the23rdelf
02.18.09

Haha, now I don't feel bad. Yes, my son is absolutely adorable, and we get comments all the time from strangers saying just that. But every time the "scouts" come at us at the mall or in other locations, I say, No, thank you for asking but no, we think he's actually quite ugly and walk away. Shocks everyone (including DH) but you're right - it's a scam. Good for you.

HollywoodMom
02.17.09

Riva you made a great choice in saying no - that was likely a scam. Legitimate managers and agents are working 24/7 finding their clients work. What they aren't doing is running after kids at the Beverly Center, stalking stroller moms at the park or popping out of clothing racks at GAP Kids.

Riva is also correct, in that auditioning, booking jobs, rehearsing, photo shoots, ect. is a JOB and not just a job for junior but for mom too. Like a child who progresses from tumbling class to competitive gymnastics, or moves from t-ball up to the regional baseball championships, sometimes local musical theater isn't the be all end all for the budding thespian. I happen to know because I'm the mother of the really persistent variety.

Being in film production, my husband and I adamantly said no to "professional" acting for our daughter for years. We've heard too many tales of whoa from former child actors, witnessed parents who pushed their children into the business (like AngstMom below) and encountered kids who were let loose to fend for themselves on the set. That being said, we've also met & worked with children who made the choice themselves, received fantastic parental support and took an amazing, grounded journey. Either way, it's NOT a journey that usually begins at the local Mall. If you're targeted & approached, please take Riva's cue and just keep shopping.

katebush
02.17.09

Kudos, Risa! I would have done the exact same thing with my little girl—who, by the way, has similar fashion sense to yours. Considered, fantasized, and moved on.